“And I’ll lie too and say I don’t mind
And as we seek so shall we find
And when you’re feeling open I’ll still be here
But not without a certain degree of fear”
“Run Around” — Blues Traveler
The case of Theranos and founder Elizabeth Holmes has kept my attention throughout the proceedings and now as the jury recently delivered convictions on four fraud charges.
It’s an incredible case, until you realize that it is perfectly in line with what has been going on in the country over the time that the entire business and case has been raging.
For those who may not know the case, Theranos is - or was - a company started by Holmes in 2003. She dropped out of Stanford with the idea of making comprehensive blood tests that typically require multiple vials of blood and a full lab, testable through a few drops of blood and a portable machine that could be put into your local Walmart or Walgreens.
Sounds like a great idea, right?
Now you understand why the idea had a step up when Holmes began trying to sell investors on the idea. She eschewed hard data in her presentations in favor of really laying on stories of those who could have had a major illness found through a comprehensive test that is often not ordered and/or is cost-prohibitive.
In less than a decade, Holmes had convinced some of the savviest investors on the planet to back her plan through her presentation, raising nearly $1 billion in capital behind her company.
Her idea never had a working prototype.
Not an “almost” one, that needed some tweaks. Not one “nearly there” that just needed some additional coding. Not a single working prototype.
She was able to raise nearly a billion dollars in funding through smoke and mirrors.
How often have the American people been handed smoke and mirrors over the last decade?
HBO released an excellent documentary on Holmes and Theranos in 2019, but I’d wager an update once the case is complete will be in order.
Things came crashing down for Holmes in the early 2010s, when investors and regulators began to raise questions.
A few investigative articles and an audit of the Theranos lab in 2015 revealed the house of cards that Holmes had built.
Incredibly, the trial has taken more than five years to come to fruition after the first charges were filed. If only the justice system allowed for that much freedom for all who may be facing decades in jail between charges and trial, but I digress…
Quite frankly, smooth talking without any truth behind that talking has become all too common in our society, and we should demand more.
My column is printed on the opinion page of the paper, a section of the newspaper where editorials, letters and other columns are presumed and even expected to contain some level of opinion.
The rest of the newspaper, however, is expected to be built on fact-based articles covering an array of topics, from front page news to community events to sports.
The evening news used to be a place where one could expect a fact-based report for 30 or 60 minutes, with perhaps a few random quips from the newscaster tossed in.
While there is plenty to discuss about the opinion-based programming that dominates the airwaves of channels like Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and others, even local television news channels have succumbed to opinion-based programming.
Simply search for “Sinclair Broadcast Group same message” to see one of the major corporate owners of local news in the country and how owning that many stations can force a message across the country in a blatant loss of journalistic free speech.
Why do people tune out fact-based, local news reporting in favor of an opinion-based news-adjacent show?
It’s what they want to hear.
There are many right now looking for weight loss plans or exercise plans or financial fitness plans, based on “before and after” photos or testimonials. In general, what do the most successful plans have in common in all of those realms?
They say what the buyer wants to hear.
Holmes had an idea that sparked the interest of a lot of very powerful and wealthy investors because it was something they wanted to work. She became a millionaire by the age of 30 because of it.
Now she’s looking at the potential of up to 80 years in jail due to her words.
Words that had no real substance behind them. Words that were used to intentionally manipulate and mislead people for her own gain.
When are we going to start holding Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, et al accountable in a similar manner?